Phil Sharp recruits British mountaineerer for Round Britain and Ireland Race 7/8/06

Jersey sailor Phil Sharp has joined forces with British mountaineer, Rhys Jones, to make a serious challenge for honours in the Round Britain and Ireland Yacht Race which starts in Cowes today at 1700.

Rhys Jones (20) became the youngest Briton to climb the seven highest mountains in the world earlier this year after reaching the summit of Mount Everest in May.

Sharp (25), will be using the event to fully test out his Groupe Finot-designed Pogo 40 before competing in the Route du Rhum later this year. The boat has been christened and it is hoped the Round Britain and Island race will also raise awareness of Phil’s Route du Rhum campaign and attract financial support.

As well as Jones, from the New Forrest, Phil’s Pogo 40 will also be crewed by an experienced team from Jersey. Will Carnegie (32), who skippered Veritas in the BT Global Challenge will be joining Sharp as co-skipper along with Chris Averty (36), a Harrier Fighter Pilot from Jersey.

Just prior to setting off, Phil said: “This race is something I’ve always wanted to do. Circumnavigating the British Isles will provide exciting coastal racing, where boats will be going as close to the shore as they dare, coupled with long offshore passages. The race takes us around some really interesting coastline, including the northernmost point of the Shetland Islands at 61deg north. It will definitely be a bit colder up there so we will be taking more than just T-shirts for this summer race!

“We are doing the race in a new high performance Class 40 boat, the same boat I hope to race in the solo transatlantic Route du Rhum later in the year. We should be one of the quickest boats in the race and will no doubt have some pretty exhilarating sailing since the boat is a fast-planing hull and the speed capabilities seem endless. We’ve already neared 20 knots in training but I think 25 or 30 knots is definitely attainable if it’s really blowing – seriously quick for a yacht, which feels equivalent to doing 90mph in a go-kart! The boat is a clever design. It has the most radical hull shape that just literally takes off in every gust, but at the same time you can live in relative luxury with ample room down below with eight berths and even a fully functional heads, welcoming for someone who has previously just sailed with a bucket!

“The race will also will also be the perfect training ground for the Route du Rhum in learning about the boat, finding out where the limit is and knowing how hard I can push before the boat can’t take any more and wipes out. After racing 21ft Minis for a few years, where you are constantly on the limit and get used to the boat capsizing fairly frequently, so hopefully I can get a feel of where the limit is quite quickly – unfortunately on bigger boats overstepping the mark and capsizing can be a lot more expensive, so this is best avoided!

“We have a crew of eight, mostly Jersey residence since we are very much representing the island in this race. For some of the new crew it has been quite a head-spinning learning curve on such an extreme boat, but all are really enjoying being part of this exciting challenge and confident that we have a great winning formula. We have some interesting people in the team including an ex-BT Round the World skipper, a young record-breaking mountaineer, and a jet-fighter pilot. We’re just looking forward to getting started now.”